SXSW is hands down one of the best times of the year. Interactive+music is the perfect combo - probably not hard to tell which festival part these are from:
The one on the left is from the side of the day stage for Jason Fried's talk on his new book Rework. The book sold out at the festival long before the talk (and subsequent book signing) and if you follow 37signals at all, that likely won't surprise you. The photo on the right is from the music wristband pick-up.
Jason Fried's session was one of my favorites, along with talks from Ze Frank (clip below), Dan Ariely (highly recommend Predictably Irrational) , Dan Roam and the panel on infographics. Overall, I preferred the individual speakers to panels and found the featured speakers better than the keynotes. Two talks that I wish I'd seen: Clay Shirky and Michel Gondry, both got rave reviews.
Some overall trends: geo-location as one of the most lively topics on-stage and off, the power and pitfalls of privacy (see Clay Shirky and Danah Boyd) and an emphasis on making and drawing things (see Dan Roam's healthcare napkins below and Len Kendall's sxsw sketch notes here).
There was also a bit of a backchannel bottleneck of sorts this year. Last year, if you were in a session that was particularly good or bad, you could broadcast your review to the masses and mobilize accordingly. The sheer volume of people (15,000 attendees, up 40% from last year) made it almost impossible to ditch a dud session and find a good one, since almost all rooms completely filled up. This made it more important to make strong (and lucky) picks from the start.
A lot of smart people have already written some really nice pieces, check out their highlights here:BBH Labs: The Joy of SXSW
And finally, a big thanks for Andy Hunter for again hooking me up with the day stage co-hosting deal, setting up the second annual Beersphere with Faris Yakob and Conrad Lisco and just generally being great. It was another super fun year, hooray digital ✰